Silver ahead as voters protest 'boys' club'
BALLINA Shire mayoral incumbent Phillip Silver, his friends and family were hoping for two wins on Saturday night.
They missed out on the first, as the All Blacks trumped the Wallabies in the Bledisloe Cup, but Mr Silver was on track for the second by leading the vote count for mayor in the Ballina council elections.
With nearly 9000 votes still to be counted and preferences still to be distributed, the Alstonville resident who has been Ballina's mayor for six years, had a near 1000-vote lead as of last night.
With about two-thirds of the votes counted, Mr Silver had 6404, or 34 per cent of the first preference votes.
Sharon Cadwallader was coming in second with 5455 votes, or 29 per cent. Trailing the lead candidates were David Wright with 2981 votes, John Felsch with 2422 votes, and Alan Rich with 1627 votes.
It was a tight race between Mr Silver and Mrs Cadwallader in the earlier part of the evening, but by about 8.30pm the numbers indicated it would go Mr Silver's way.
“I'm feeling considerably better now than I did at six o'clock,” Mr Silver said later that night, while attending a 'rugby party' at a friend's house. “I'm encouraged by the results.
The political fringe dwellers have thrown everything at me but the kitchen sink (in the lead-up to the election). But in spite of that, I think the Ballina community has come through.
“However I must congratulate Sharon on her thorough campaign, I know she put a lot of effort in.”
Mr Silver conceded the vote count so far and Ms Cadwallader's strong result suggested her complaints that Ballina Shire Council was run by a 'boys' club' had gained traction in the community
“Regardless of who is elected mayor there is a message in the vote that the new council needs to be more inclusive and less factional,” he said.
Mr Silver said one of the most gratifying parts of the campaign was seeing the high number of quality candidates, and the 'huge' amount of support the community gave them.
Mrs Cadwallader, who spent Saturday night at her East Ballina home entertaining family and friends over dinner and drinks, said she was encouraged by the results.
“This is evidence that people believe in me, and that people are looking for a change,” she said.
“It's going to be very close.
“[If I don't get elected as mayor] I'll just get on with the job at hand, doing what people elected me here as a councillor to do - if I get in.”
In counting for the other council positions, Sue Meehan and Alan Brown were leading the charge in A ward, Sharon Cadwallader and Jeff Johnson in B ward and Phillip Silver and David Wright in C ward.
Ballina/Byron returning officer Kerry Crawford agreed that with so many votes still to be tallied and preferences still up for grabs, the final results were anyone's guess.
Pre-poll votes and postal votes received so far had been counted and sent to Sydney, but as of last night had not yet been added to the tallies.